Home made with care

We all know that Aussie men love their sheds, but can we ever fully appreciate the diversity of projects undertaken in all those thousands of man caves?

Take, for example, Lennox Head resident Elio Zambelli, who believed that his shed was the obvious place to build a plane. That’s right, Elio took possession of his light plane—a Van Aircraft RV 12—in a box; a kit that he purchased from the US. Then during 2012 he put it together piece by piece right here in Lennox Head, all by himself, with the help of wife Coralie, who made herself available to lift and tilt pieces when necessary.

Even though the Zambelli’s garage was big enough to house three cars, the RV 12 eventually outgrew its first home, and the body and wings were shipped separately to Elio’s hangar in Lismore.

Most of the hard work had been done, although Elio admitted that this job had been a lot bigger than the last one (that’s right this was not his first!). In fact the physical task of inserting 12,500 pop rivets and 2,500 solid rivets was so demanding that he ended up with a painful dose of RSI.

But let’s back track a bit to the 70s—to Elio’s young working life as a Lismore motor mechanic specialising in large machinery, tractors and trucks, servicing the equipment of landholders and farmers in the district and beyond.

Business is growing and Elio is finding that he is getting a lot of new customers out west, hundreds of kilometres away. On some days he is required to travel up to 4 hours to a property, spend one or two hours fixing the vehicle, and then travel another 4 hours home again. It isn’t making business sense for him or his employees, so he comes up with an answer: to get his pilot’s license and get a plane.

Elio became a sort of flying doctor service for large farm machinery, flying as far afield as Gundawindi, Narrabri, Lightning Ridge, Moree, and even Wagga Wagga.

And that was the birth of his love of light planes. Even though he sold that one in 2002 for double what he paid for it, his time tinkering with engines and planes wasn’t up. It was then that he began building planes and the RV 12 is his second. Elio is waiting on his approval to fly this baby, but insists this will be the last.


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